By Sean Barron
From “grip” to “goon,” from “win” to “woe,” they were racking up points while helping a longtime community-service agency.
“I play with my husband online and play Words With Friends,” Louisa Berger said, referring to her penchant for playing Scrabble — and its online twin. “He usually wins.”
The Youngstown woman and her husband, Martin Berger, were busily playing the popular word board game, though not against each other and under very different circumstances. This time, they were among close to 30 people who took part in Saturday’s Scrabble Tournament fundraiser at First Presbyterian Church, 201 Wick Ave. It was a benefit for Protestant Family Service, a faith-based agency that assists people with emergency and other needs.
Participants paid $20 each to be in the tournament, the proceeds of which are to help clients struggling to pay water and electric bills, emergency medication, rent and security deposits, noted Jackie Burley, PFS’ executive director.
Berger was one of the top finishers in the first of three 40-minute games, with 195 points. Her victory was secured when she played the word “qi,” (pronounced “chee”) which is a life force, the properties of which form the basis for much of Chinese medicine and philosophy. The word was good for 38 points and also formed the basis for Berger to advance to the next round.
The tournament winner took home a donated 32-inch flat-screen TV.
Three or four players at each of several tables competed against one another and formed many common words as well as some that yielded a higher number of points such as “ledger,” “proton” and, with the help of both blank tiles, “waiters.”
A couple of unusual words, including “qats,” (leaves of a shrub often chewed like tobacco or used to make tea), dotted several boards.
Berger’s opponents were Elaine Ross of Villa Maria, Pa., and Rae Hudson of Howland, both of whom play Scrabble regularly.
“My mom used to play when I was a kid; she introduced me to it,” said Ross, who retired after having worked with children with behavior and emotional challenges in the Toledo school district. “I enjoyed it right away.”
Ross started playing the game about 10 years ago with a neighbor and plays two or three times a week, she continued.
“I play weekly with friends. [Scrabble] keeps us mentally active,” said Hudson, who worked 17 years as a secretary for Trumbull County Children Services and who has played for many years with her sister.
Protestant Family Service receives no United Way funding and relies heavily on grants and donations, Burley noted, adding that her agency needs donated beds, refrigerators and stoves.
In addition, she said, PFS is encouraging people to donate household items, though the agency does not accept clothing.
Those interested in volunteering are asked to contact Kay Hurd or Mary Bali, volunteer coordinators, at 330-746-4600.
The agency’s next fundraiser is a spring concert set for 3 p.m. April 28 at First United Methodist Church in Austintown.